News / Middle East

Egypt Struggles to Define 'Free Speech'

Egypt Struggles to Define 'Free Speech'i
|| 0:00:00
X
February 19, 2013 2:50 PM
Egyptians are struggling over whether limits should be placed on free speech, one of the many rights people fought for in their uprising two years ago. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott has more from Cairo.

Egypt Struggles to Define 'Free Speech'

Elizabeth Arrott
— From online activism to protests in the street, Egyptians have exercised their right to free speech over the past two years in ways unimaginable even in the recent past.

But novelist Alaa el-Aswany believes that sense of freedom is illusory, with the government of President Mohamed Morsi pursuing its own agenda.

"The formula is the following: you write whatever you want, I'm going to do whatever I want," says el-Aswany.

He believes the current leadership has cracked down even more than ex-president Hosni Mubarak.

"Mr. Morsi brought about 10 writers to the court who were accused of insulting the president. He did that in like four months, six months," el-Aswany says. "Mubarak, in 30 years, he did that three times."

It's not just insults to political leaders that prompt a reaction. A U.S.-made video impugning Islam's Prophet Muhammad set off an attack on the American Embassy and brought death sentences, in absentia, for the Egyptians who made it.

An Islamist view of free speech can differ dramatically from the concept embraced in the West.  

Safwat al-Ghani, of Gama'a Islamiya, says there is a different understanding of freedom. He favors freedom which is controlled by “respect for sacredness and the conventions of Islam.”

That view has wide support in this deeply religious country. But for many, protection for political figures is another matter.

Political satirist Bassem al-Youssef is one of Egypt's most popular comedians, but prosecutors don't find his mocking of the president so amusing.

Yet the investigation backfired. The spotlight turned on the prosecutors, and after much public ridicule, they dropped their case.

Publisher Rania al-Malki says the government needs to ease up. "Once you become the ruling administration, you've got to have more tolerance for people like Bassem Youssef."

But while she sees free speech flourishing now, she's concerned about the undefined future, especially in laws likely to be drafted through the prism of Islamism.

"We have a situation here where the constitution has mandated the creation of two new bodies to regulate the media," al-Malki says. "But we have no clue what that is going to entail."

Across the region, post-revolution states are redefining the rights and freedoms of their citizens. As the Arab world's most populous nation, Egypt might set the standard that others will follow.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
February 20, 2013 1:40 AM
Human Rights & Freedoms do not have COMPASS preferences.


by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
February 19, 2013 7:46 PM
Freedom of speech is alien to most Moslem countries, Arab countries and in the Middle East. Since most of the countries are ruled by dictators and emerging democracies, everything is under the Moslem guidelines of the seventh century. Even in the so called secular democracy of Turkey, freedom of speech and expression are illusive. There is no tolerence towards ethiests, other religions, freedom of speech and self expression. Criticising or making fun of the rulers is a crime in these countries. Some rulers claim they are even incarnations of God just like the pharoahs of Egypt. Even in non-Moslem countries the rulers used religion to enhance their power. Making fun or joke of Allah or Moslem religion by believers or non believers will enrage the mullahs and clerics with fatwa to kill the person over-riding the rulers. The rule of law does not exist in most Moslem countries. It is only the rule of clerics that exist in these countries.

The root cause of all this preoccupation by the relgion and rulers is because of lack of eductaion, especially the women. Women's right to eduction, ware whatever they want, work wherever they want, go anywhere they want without a male escort or at least drive a car in public are constrained by the edicts of the clerics tolerated by the rulers.

If the rulers cannot control the public, the rulers use religion as a weapon. If both the rulers and the clerics fail to restrain the freedom of speech, there comes protests originating from the mosques. If Ayatollah rules Iran, the Moslem clerics rules other Moslem countries with the tacit approval of rulers. If the clerics and the rulers cannot control the freedom of speech, they incite their followers to attack the individuals, other beliefs or religions or people of the any kind of opposing view.

Why all the political protests in the Moslem countries occur on fridays after prayers at the mosques? Mosques are not only the place of worship, but also the center of politics instigated by the clerics of opposing religious and political beliefs. But even the protests for freedom originating from the mosques does not produce or ensure freedom of speech as known in the western countries.


by: ali baba from: new york
February 19, 2013 7:43 PM
freedom of speech, separation of church from state ,and democracy are western ideas. .these ideas can not exist in Islamic state. freedom speech can be interpreted that each imam can produce fatwa to kill..Islam is the state. any idea does not match with Islam is automatically rejected. democracy in middle east is the fancy and hallucination of American writer

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid